Pairing food and wine has been a staple in the culinary and entertainment world for a long time now. But, have you given food and whiskey pairings a thought—it is a new and exciting trend chefs, connoisseurs, and home entertainers are embracing.
There are a few basic guidelines to follow to avoid mishaps at the dining table, though.
What should I not eat when I drink whiskey?
The basics are: avoid dairy products such as creams, cheeses, and chocolates. Acidic foods such as tomatoes, pineapples, and citrus are the big ones to avoid. Overly sweet dishes can cause you to drink more and dehydrate more quicker. Spicy foods could spoil the whiskey’s taste but also result in some not feeling too good.
We will have a look at the foods and food groups to avoid while drinking whiskey and offer balanced guidelines of groups of foods to best avoid and foods to embrace with whiskey.
Whiskey and Food Guidelines
Below, we will look at some guidelines to help you avoid feeling ill, drinking too much and dehydrating, avoiding reflux and heartburn, and minimizing a horrible hangover the next morning.
Follow these guidelines and avoid making the mistakes I made when I was young and stupid (now I am just young but still do the occasional stupid things).
For me, the top one is avoiding salty foods. It should come as a straightforward decision, but we forget salty foods such as pretzels, fries, and salt-cured meats (bacon, salami, corned beef, pancetta) contain high levels of salt.
If they served you these, try either limiting your intake of them or washing them down with enough water to counterbalance the dehydrating effects.
Remember, alcohol dehydrates you, and dehydration is one of the major factors which leads to hangovers.
This one is tricky, to be honest.
Lactose-heavy products such as cheese, when combined with hard drinks such as whiskey, which may irritate the stomach lining, is a recipe for feeling nauseous and, with enough alcohol, throwing up.
Also not a good idea if you have any form of slight or heavy lactose intolerance…
Further, sharp-tasting cheeses, think brie, blue cheese, or American cheddar, mutes the tastebuds meaning you cannot taste the finer flavorings and aromas in your whiskey.
Now, for the flip side: dairy fats such as cream and butter can help you enjoy your whiskey even more!
A little chemistry: alcohol molecules are incompatible with fatty acids, meaning they don’t mix. The upside is that these fatty acids create a coating in the mouth with a light barrier the alcohol cannot penetrate, helping to avoid that harsh whiskey burn sensation you sometimes experience.
Other whiskey elements are fat soluble—unlocking more flavors in the whiskey and leading to an even better whiskey-drinking experience.
Recommendation: make sure there is a fatty part in the dish: butter, cream, or cheese that helps you unlock flavors. Exercise caution, and don’t overdo the dairy.
Chocolate is technically a dairy product, but it deserves its own category because of the other ingredients, such as caffeine which is naturally found in cacao beans.
Granted, the caffeine found in chocolate is minimal when compared to caffeinated energy drinks and coffee. Caffeine, combined with sugar, can make you feel more alert, stay out longer, and drink more than you planned.
We are not here to put a damper on your party or night out but to help you drink responsibly and avoid those heavy hangovers in the morning.
On the other hand, small amounts of chocolate and whiskey can cause interesting taste excursions in the comfort of your own home. Lindt has some excellent recommendations on their website, and here you can look at ten tips for pairing the nectar of the gods with the foods of the gods.
Yes, I am a chocoholic who loves whiskey equally, and this has been an interesting journey I am not quite done with!
This is a bit of an easy decision, but it still needs to be mentioned.
Alcohol and spicy foods are not an ideal combination, to be honest. Apart from suffering the effects of spicy foods for a day or two, why would you want to kill your tastebuds and not taste all the delicate flavors your whiskey offers?
While fats mute and moderate the harsh alcoholic burn sometimes, spicy foods do the exact opposite.
Capsaicin, which causes the burning sensation in chilies, actually dissolves in alcohol. Further, capsaicin triggers a rush of stress hormones or makes people feel jittery or energized—not a feeling you want to experience while having a good time with friends or loved ones.
Drinking whiskey with spicy dishes will intensify and amplify the burning sensation of the whiskey, leading to an overall unpleasant mouthfeel and feeling.
It is never a bad idea to reach for some fresh produce when you have too much to drink. However, this comes with a warning.
The acidic nature of too much citrus and pineapples often instigates digestive issues when combined with alcohol. I have found that citrus and whiskey do not really make a good match.
However, as this post points out, Scottish single malt whisky plays nicely with lemon or lime-based dishes (recipe included for bonus points).
This is for the health-conscious among us. We are talking burgers with grilled vegetables or meat patties inside them.
The simple carbohydrates found in burgers are absorbed quickly and leave you with unwanted calories and fat. If you feel like a burger, opt for plant-based patties—they are nutrient-dense—alcohol makes it more difficult for the body to absorb nutrients.
A burger with a few whiskies once in a while is fine, but not a sustainable lifestyle choice, I’m afraid.
We have looked at the top five foods (salty foods, dairy, chocolate, citrus, and burgers) to avoid while drinking whiskey.
Creating whiskey is a craft, and many hours go into producing a bottle of whiskey, and you want the best possible experience when you pour yourself a dram.
A last word of advice, these are tips to help you enjoy your whiskey with a meal. Keeping these tips in mind, you can avoid the ‘bad’ whiskey experiences, but experiment and see what works for you.
Look here to see some amazing things you can eat with whiskey. Be bold and experiment with ideas—there is no right or wrong way to enjoy whiskey and food.